Self-Care for the College Student

Self-care is weird. There’s not really a set definition, and sometimes, there’s a fear that self-care can morph into selfishness, especially when you have to put your needs before someone else’s. We’re here to tell you that it’s okay to tell your friends no or decline that call from your mom or watch another episode of The Office when you really should be tackling that paper for college writing. We’re here to offer some advice regarding self-care so you can manage all realms of your life without burning out (Though, it’s okay if you do. Honestly, it’s inevitable after a while).

1. Know Thyself

Some people are more self-aware than others, but no matter where you fall on that spectrum, we encourage you to get to know yourself. Be aware of the activities that bring you joy, the things you most look forward to throughout the week, and the things you absolutely dread. (Hint: it’s okay if those things are people.)

Feel free to take a self-assessment quiz—like Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, or the Enneagram for starters. (If you’re a Bethel student, Career Development and Calling can help with this.) These assessments give you language to refer to your habits or personality that’s a bit outside of your own perspective. Ultimately, they’ll reassure you that you are not crazy, even you feel you don’t belong in your group of friends because you’d rather read on a Friday night than hang out. We promise that you are not crazy for being yourself, even if you don’t quite know who that is yet.

2. Take Care of Thyself

Phew. Nothing like soul-searing truths in your casual reading ventures. Along with affirmation, we hope to give you some no-brainer things you can do any time during your life, whether you’re in college or not. So, here’s a list of self-care habits that are worth cultivating just to keep you afloat.

• Sleep. Every day.

For the minimum five-and-a-half-hours your body may demand to keep you functioning, or for the eight hours necessary to make you appear less like a Disney villain. (If you find yourself consistently catching Z’s for more than ten hours a day, we suggest seeking medical help, because that’s probably too many.)

• Eat. Good. Food.

Now, for some, that may take the form of cookie cakes or Fettuccine Alfredo. For others, that may mean putting aside the bag of potato chips you bought this morning and choosing an apple instead. The goal here is to be eating every day, because some emotional crises can be prevented by eating a sandwich before making rash decisions.

• Stay connected.

No matter what you’re going through, nobody is an island. If you find yourself withdrawing from society, surround yourself with people that accept you as you are, whether that’s a phone call home or an email to your high school math teacher. Sure, sometimes withdrawal is necessary to keep functioning, but if you’re running out of excuses to avoid spending time with the people you know care about you, then maybe check yourself. Once again, it’s never too late or early to ask for help.

• Don’t make enemies.

This is probably the most ambiguous of all our suggestions, but it may be the most beneficial for you later in life. Trust that some people are in your life for a season. Though they may be toxic to be around, don’t make them the Lex Luther to your Clark Kent. Smallville was so much simpler before they were bitter rivals trying to weasel out each other’s darkest secrets. Also—don’t make enemies of your emotions, your competitive drive, your instinctual reactions to crisis, your particular eating habits, or whatever else doesn’t fit in your social circles.

• Take a walk.

Apparently exercise is good for you (or so we’ve been told). So, a daily walk or swim or jog around the block will help your body (perhaps even more than eating a whole cookie cake. Who knew?). Taking a walk might also mean taking a break from whatever’s consuming your thoughts, passions, or conversations. Maybe being around one of your friends is more toxic than beneficial for you, so take a night off. Maybe the climactic assignment for your history class is haunting your nightmares, so don’t research for a day. Or maybe that burger you love so much at Red Robin has stopped settling with you. Take a break.

3. Love Thyself

We know, we know. It’s silly and doesn’t fit well with a faith rooted in the ultimate self-sacrifice. However, you are precious as you are, and consistently expecting yourself to be better or even more like someone else is a disservice to your gifts and personality. Mary Oliver, a queen of poetry, says, “Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still it explains nothing. The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.” No matter the people that come in and out of your life, you are stuck with yourself, and if you barely like yourself, well, that’s a long road ahead. Self-care is a form of self-love—or self-compassion, if you’d rather hear a less narcissistic word. You deserve compassion from yourself, for you’re doing the best you can.